Young People Today. Time to Act Now.

Eastern and Southern Africa Ministerial Commitment

On 7 December 2013, health and education ministers and representatives from 20 countries* in Eastern and Southern Africa affirmed a landmark commitment supporting sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people.  This Commitment (click here for French and Portuguese) , the result of intensive consultation at regional and country level, paves the way for accelerated scale up of HIV prevention through sexuality education and essential health services.

The ESA Commitment process was led by UNAIDS with the support of UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO and a number of bilateral and civil society partners, including young people’s organisations. A High Level Group under the leadership of Prof Sheila Tlou (Regional Director, UNAIDS) brought together political and organizational leadership from across the region, including Former President Festus Mogae (Botswana) and Mama Salma Kikwete (First Lady of Tanzania). Speaking at the affirmation ceremony on the eve of the 17th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) in Cape Town, Michel Sidibé (UNAIDS Executive Director) said ‘this commitment will change the realities for how millions of young people access the sexual and reproductive health information and services that they need to live healthy and empowered lives. When they enter into relationships and decide the timing and spacing of their children, it will help them stay safe from HIV - so that they can be capable of stopping the epidemic’.

The ESA Commitment was backed by a specially commissioned regional report (English) and a vibrant advocacy and communication campaign engaging young people and other stakeholders across the region (click here for French , Portuguese is forthcoming). ‘We have heard the statistics from the report and we have heard what the young people are saying and as a Government, we are committed to addressing the health needs young people. We will ensure that they have access to sexuality education and services. I re-affirm the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child health’s role in addressing the health needs of adolescents and young people in Zambia’ said Dr Joseph Katema, Minister of Community Development, Mother and Child Health.

In 2014-2015, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC), regional partners in the process, will monitor progress towards achieving the targets set by the ESA Commitment.

Marking one year of the ESA Commitment

In December, UNESCO and partners marked the first year of implementation following the groundbreaking Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) commitment. During this time, strong progress has been made towards achieving the ambitious targets set in the ESA Commitment. Countries have made huge strides to develop and enforce an enabling environment in order to build strong foundations in realizing the commitment targets. This includes:

1. A coordinated response to implementation by working with national partners across multiple sectors.

2. Human and financial resources that are mobilized for better capacity and implementation.

3. Reviewing, revising and developing national policies, strategies and legal frameworks that address young people’s needs.

For more information updates, go to the ESA Commitment campaign website or contact

Dr Patricia Machawira at: p.machawira(at)unesco.org

* Countries affirming the Commitment included Angola, Botswana, Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Rwanda remains part of the Commitment process but did not attend the affirmation ceremony.

Back to top